When Should TV & Movie Spoilers ‘Expire?’

Published 6 years ago by , Updated January 23rd, 2013 at 6:55 am,

spoiler threestooges 4p When Should TV & Movie Spoilers Expire?

This is a spoiler free article!

Over the last month, it’s come to my attention that my idea and Screen Rant’s readers’ idea of a spoiler may differ by just a little bit. Okay, maybe a lot of bit!

In my mind, what I wrote were not spoilers because to me and most of the world, it was old news. Yet to others, it was a no-no beyond all disrepair and I’ve been shunned by some who think I was callous in my reporting.

My first reaction was “What ever. Go back in your cave and quit griping. It’s your choice and hence, your own fault.” To me, getting snapped at about being spoiled about something that has been in the mainstream news for weeks and even months is akin to a vegetarian going into a steak house and bitching about the menu… Or those who buy houses next to a major airport, then months later looking up and going, “Whoa! Where’d that come from?”

For some, you will probably charge right into the comments section and fillet me right here and now. Fine… have at.

For those of you who stuck around, that was my sarcasm sequencer * going off and I can’t help it! Trust me, I’ve never talked my way out of traffic tickets because of that personality flaw! “Do you know how fast you were going?” “Dude, I’m not filling in the blanks for you!”

*Anyone catch what that reference is to?

After my initial reaction to the spoiler thing, I started to ponder this issue because I’ve seen other sites where readers got their feathers ruffled about being spoiled. The incident I saw was a lot more blatant than mine, but nonetheless, I reflected.

This brought me to ponder the following:

  • What is a spoiler?
  • How long should the media warn people of spoilers?
  • Should the media even care?
  • Whose responsibility is it to not sow spoilers unto the mind?

What Is a Spoiler?

The first question is pretty easy. A spoiler is a piece of information that ruins someone’s anticipation or surprise of a plot point or character/actor reveal before they are ready.

I get that and as far as I’m concerned, it’s pretty easy to do.

A New Kind Of Viewer

With the advent of the digital age and time-shifted viewing, our busy lifestyles (or disgust at the deluge of advertising on TV) creates different reactions in folks.

Some may record a show, or search it out online to view later that week. Then there are others that can’t stand the onslaught of advertising, and instead wait for the DVDs and watch an entire season on without interruption.

It’s this new type of viewer that is creating a new kind of perspective on what a spoiler is. And much to my chagrin, this sort of viewer is easy to alienate if one is not careful.

Viewer Categories

From what I see, mainly speaking, there are 3 distinct kinds of fans out there:

1. The spoiler-fan is the one who looks for the insights and behind-the-scenes info like movie spoilers. It’s a “seller” to be able put this information up and it can generate a ton of traffic for the site that does. The spoiler fan wants to know something about a show before their friends do. They want to be able to talk about these things.

2. Then there’s the non-spoiler fan. They want to be surprised by either the twists and turns of a plot, or who may show up and play a part.

3. Then there’s the contradiction-fan. He’s the fan who doesn’t want to hear anything about upcoming episodes, but claims that they like preview snippets in the opening of an episode so there’s a sense of anticipation of something to look forward to. [Crickets]

When Does The Media Label A Spoiler?

When does the media stamp a spoiler warning on an article? Different forms of media distribute a lot of different kinds of information that could be considered a spoiler every day and that’s that. But when do you think a website should stop calling something a spoiler?

With movies, I can see it being a spoiler when unknown details are given up before you see it. Heck, just seeing the pictures from a soon to be released movie can be considered a spoiler because now we know that scene is coming up. But then, how long do we use the term spoiler when talking about a movie after it’s opened? Do we wait until a few weeks until after its release? It would seem reasonable that after a film’s second weekend, all bets are off.

With TV, I can respect someone needing a week or two to view a show. The standard time frame seems to be within a week of an episode for recorded programming. Does it seem unreasonable to not label something a spoiler after it’s been released in the wild after a month or two?

Different Worlds

I recognize that we live in different paced worlds. I see, hear and am told things long before anyone else knows about them. I have a friend at FOX who mentions he’s seen call lists for some movie that’s only been rumored to be in the pipe, and another bud who sent me pics of Battlestar Galactica props that I COULD NOT PUBLISH (which I find to be cruel and unusual punishment). Heck, a couple of years ago I had the list of which “Survivor” was leaving the show, and in what week.

When do I use discretion? Should I keep it to myself that I know who Luke’s father is? There are still folks out there who haven’t seen this yet! Or should I keep it to myself that I know the Titanic sinks at the end of the movie? It’s a judgment call on everyone’s part!

bsg muffit is the final cylon nerdgoddotcom When Should TV & Movie Spoilers Expire?

The different worlds we live in became apparent when I had blurted out that ????? was the ???? ????? on ???! Or that ???? was going to play ????? on ????????? (NOPE, NOT GONNA BLURT IT OUT HERE!). To me, this was old news. All major outlets had reported the first one. On the second bit of info, the actor/actress put their news on their website. Heck, I even had these bits a few weeks prior with nary a snag! So my presumption was that everyone knew.

A very nice reader reminded me (thanks, Sherry) that not everyone goes to all the other sites, but just visit Screen Rant and a few select others, and don’t necessarily see this info. Meanwhile other readers verbally scorned me for the error of my ways, stating they’ll never take me seriously ever again. When someone goes all out on me, it makes me want to say “Bite me! I’m in the middle of a learning curve. Have some frakking patience.”

Whose Responsibility Is It?

On whose shoulders does the onus lay? I think it’s a team effort and there’s a really big gray line running down the middle of the road we need to recognize. A two sided coin.

On the shiny side of the coin, writers need to be aware of certain bits that need to be handled as spoilers.

I also don’t want to alienate our readers, if you are indeed trying to hide from spoilers. I know you come here because we are a great avenue of information and opinion. I feel you also want to be able to trust us if we’re not going to blurt out that Old Yeller dies… oh crap… sorry.


This is where teamwork between you and the writers will come in handy. A GENTLE, POLITE reminder would be appreciated, because (for the most part) we are human. Sometimes our snarky attitude might shine through when we’re roughed up, but we mean well. Don’t worry – I’m getting help for that part of my personality… NOT! That’s my fun side. I can’t help myself and I blame society!

On the dark side of this coin are time limits. How long before we stop labeling things as spoilers? I’m not going to label my post about E.T. getting home as a DVD spoiler. And I’m not going to worry about telling you that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Actually, who is Batman these days?

For Some, Get Real!

It does irk me that there are those who choose to not view a show in real time, or in a responsible time-shifted fashion because, believe it or not, they also ruin it for others.

I’m part of a film club that meets on Fridays and we can’t chat about anything relevant or the hottest issues because we have a few folk that come to the get-togethers and say “Whoa, don’t talk about that! I haven’t seen the entire season yet!”

Great, we get to lumber into film club and sit in zombie-like fashion and talk about the weather because we can’t spoil it for a few folk who choose to live in a cave! (I’m about to find out who, from my film club, reads Screen Rant !)

Time to Chime In

Finally… I’m done ranting. There you have it. I asked my film club members for their take on the idea of spoilers. I discovered that we have some smart asses in the club because I got a rather large number of links to Wikipedia. DON’T DO THAT!!! For them, I suggested some Sarcasma pills!

The club, as a whole, was of the same opinion and I’d like your take on the issue. I want to do a non-scientific statistical sampling here and extrapolate the numbers into a result for a later update. Hmmm… I just tossed out some terms from my day job. dOh! Didn’t mean to do that!

Thanks for reading, and thanks for chiming in!

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  1. Bruce will was dead the entire time.

    I’m pretty much in full agreement with you here. At a certain point it’s simply not a spoiler anymore. If your gonna talk about what happened last night on Heroes for instance ok you should label it with spoilers some people record. However if you are gonna talk about the first season of The Office or even an episode from december well then it’s not really a spoiler anymore. I would say when it comes to television if it’s been widley known or the episode has been out for more than 3 or 4 weeks then have at it. It’s not a spoiler anymore. If we are talking movie terms once that’s a little more subjective. Probably best to always put a spoiler alert on movies unless it’s been out on DVD fore a week or so. By then most people will have seen it and generally if you are reading something about it you can expect it to have spoilers.

  2. bah that should Say

    Bruce Willis was dead the entire time.

  3. A spoiler headline would be one that gives away a major plot point of a series or film.
    That has neer happened to me here.
    there are other sites that LOVE to spoil things and does so almost religiously.
    Screen Rant is not a site that tries to ruin the viewers Film or TV experience.

  4. Wow, it’s a shame to see such a fuss come from all of this; you didn’t do squat wrong. The fact that there were complaints about the article that started it all is just stupid. I won’t go into it too much because I’d end up writing a novel, but the gist of it is that once something has been public knowledge for a week or two you can pretty much guarantee that articles about it will contain facts regarding it. Quit complaining and use your brain.

    You know that BSG article that was recently put up? I’m not reading it because there will most certainly be things I don’t want to know yet. It’s how the world works. We talk about cool new things, like, awesome happenings in shows we like.

    What the heck is the point of reading or writing articles if all they are going to contain are facts sure to not be spoilers?


  5. Great article, Bruce. I totally agree. In the matter of BSG, I have to wait 8 days after air to watch it online because I don’t have SCI FI. If I see an article about it, I make a note to come back and read it after I watch. People need to be responsible for their own mistakes-like saying “dang it, I should have known not to read that post”. Instead, some people want to blame the writer. Don’t change a thing, Bruce.

  6. My take on spoilers:

    A spoiler warning is needed for any surprise/unknown part of a movie/tv show that hasn’t opened/aired.

    To me that includes endings, plot twists, and major character developments (like a pic of two-face from TDK before the movie opened).

    Once a tv show airs or a movie opens, then the onus switches to a fan to avoid reading about movies they don’t want spoiled. Once something is available to watch, then writers are free to talk about it because the opportunity was there for any fan to see it.

  7. The thing about spoilers that baffles me is that, yes it does adhere to the audience’s experience the first time they watch a film or series, however, that only affects them for their first time. How does it affect you on the second or third or eighth viewing?
    Question, how many of us have only seen Empire Strikes Back once considering we know that Vader is Luke’s father?
    What I am trying to say is, yes it is good not to know about what happens, but after you know, is there a difference in how you view the film or series the second time around? Do you still have the same satisfying experience knowing the “big reveal” or “plot change”? I still watch The Others and The Mist knowing of the outcomes and still be completely satisfied.
    On Watchmen, it is still the same ending where they show a devastating attack on New York, those who have read the comic know of the ending going in to see the film? This is just me but honestly I do not mind spoilers because as long as I can have a good experience even knowing what happens, that is fine with me.

  8. Good article!

    The trouble with TV spoilers on a web site is that the shows does not air simultaneously in the entire world, but the web sites does. Terminator SCC, for instance, has yet to start its second season here in Norway, and the same is true with the fifth season of Stargate Atlantis and many other shows. It is difficult to navigate through the endless stream of spoilers-that-some-might-consider-to-be-universally-known about TV shows on sites like this. (However, I do not point my finger at Screenrant. Haven’t been spoiled by you, yet…)

  9. DANIEL F: Thanks for that word-o clarification… I was scratching my head trying to play the 20 questions thing with that first one!

    PSYKO: It wasn’t the biggest of fusses, but the fact that it came up got my brain turning on the issue… thought I’d charge out and ponder my brain a bit because even if it were just a few folks with the issue, we’re all still a bit ‘ol family and I felt it should be addressed. And maybe, make for some cool reading!

  10. GARY:

    Thank you… we do try.


    Thanks – I’ll keep at it, but with a bit more awareness and maybe, I won’t toss out too much snarky doing it!


    You’re right. But there also needs to be a balance where you can trust the site you go to, to do their best to think of you, the reader, when we write.

    My disclaimer, We are human though and sometimes things slip!

  11. Good article, Bruce. Obviously, if a movie has only been out for a day or 2, then it is appropriate to post a spoiler alert because not everyone can make it to a movie within a couple of days of opening. If a movie has been out for 3 weeks, then the responsibility falls to the reader to practice caution and not read any articles or reviews on the film.

    As for TV shows, I think 2 weeks is PLENTY of time to watch a recorded show. That being said, I have avoided talking about TSCC because I have 4 weeks worth of episodes yet to watch.

  12. SK47

    I get what you’re saying. One can take it to a bit of an extreme and say that even stills from an upcoming movie are spoilers… but

    Spoilers are moot if it’s a crappy show. There are shows that are so well written that being spoiled is not even an issue. As you point out, knowing what you’re going to re-watch still doesn’t affect your enjoyment of the show because it’s got an intricate character and story plot.

  13. I think spoilers is having information beforehand when a viewer has not had the opportunity yet to see something. I think up until it’s official release you should not say anything, it would be wrong.

  14. SIMON

    Wow… it must be a fine line you live under, in Norway. That’s one heck of a delay you have there!

    Does this mean we need to put SPOILERS after the website title then?

    Dang, never even thought of whole countries being spoiled. Zoinks! I could be in a heap of trouble!


    Are you banking your TSCC?? LOL. Get to it man so we can chat about things!

    Hmm… no one from my film club as seen this yet. Nothing here at work, nothing here on the post. So far, so good.

  15. @JMoney

    I like your approach:

    Before a show airs or movie premieres = spoiler warning by the writer.

    After a show airs/movie opens, it’s the reader’s responsibility to assume that details WILL be discussed.

    Of course I always avoid spoilers in my movie reviews, since the purpose of those is to help someone who HASN’T seen the movie decide whether they should or not.


  16. Bruce Simmons: By no means was I talking about this site, I was just talking in general, I don’t really even know what slip up you are talking about. I just assumed we were talking about Terminator 4′s ending.

    I’ve never had any spoiler issues with this site.

  17. @Bruce…

    My schedule has been so hectic lately that I just got to watch Heroes from 3 weeks ago the other night and Chuck from 2 weeks ago. I want to watch them, but when I turn on my TV there is usually something interesting on Discovery and that soaks up my free hour. LOL.

  18. @Andy

    Believe it or not even I’m behind on watching some of the shows we cover here. I was three weeks behind on Sarah Connor Chronicles last night (now I’m only two behind) and I’m three weeks behind on Heroes as well. Heroes is a problem for me because sometimes the show is so damned gorey that it’s off my daughter’s watch list.


  19. JMONEY

    No issues here. I knew where you were coming from. I was agreeing with you.

    ANDY S

    It’s nuts, and then you have to dodge the dang ads about the show or sometimes they’ll give things away about stuff you haven’t seen yet.

  20. WHAT!!!???? Bruce Wayne is BATMAN??!!! Vader is Luke’s FATHER???!!! Bruce Willis is dead the whole film???!! You humans are petaQs!!! Why did you tell me this???!! The Titanic sinks????!!!! Gunner, target these petaQs and fire!!!!

    Ok Kahless, eat your live gagh and then choke on some habeas claw or somethin’. :-)

    I agree whole heartedly with you Bruce. I don’t know what article started this but I’m sure you did nothing wrong. The only spoilers that really irk me are the ones where a killer is revealed in a murder mystery, like the ending to Watchmen. I haven’t watched BSG yet but I have gotten some spoilers from others and I will still watch the finale.

    I remember posting on the Man with the X-Ray Eyes thread and later saying I probably should have put a spoiler warning. Vic rightly commented that the movie was too old for spoilers but your article here is the reason why I said I probably should have put a spoiler warning on it first; who knows who might get their panties in a bunch because I revealed the ending to the movie.

  21. You’re too funny John.

  22. Dude, I like to talk about a movie or show the minute I see it, so I DON’T go looking in reviews and stuff until after I’ve seen it. If you don’t wanna run something don’t go snooping where the answer probably WILL be.

    As far as spoilers abotu casting and plots and stuff, well most of the time a headline will reveal that there is a possible spoiler so you can use your discretion to read it, otherwise, wtf why would you complain, you might get mad at yourself but thats the only person whos falt it is.

    If you dont wanna know ANYTHING about casting, plots, etc, GTFO, seems pretty simple.

  23. Well if it’s been a few weeks since a tv show aired or it’s been a few weeks since a movie dvd has been released then have at it. But other than that, having a spoiler alert would be appreciated at the top of the article, I have had times where I’d be reading on a website and they would just throw in spoilers out of nowhere so you couldn’t skip over them or whatever and it’s something you didn’t want spoiled. After getting a couple of big endings or surprising parts of a movie or show ruined for me I stop going to the website at all, and I wouldn’t want to stop coming here. :D

  24. RICHARD:

    We need to form a club!


    We don’t want you to stop coming here either!

    This turn out of comments is exactly what I’m looking for… to get a feel for how everyone feels about the issue and we can hopefully keep everyone as happy as can be!

  25. Personally if I’ve not seen it, I avoid it. For instance, as has been said, we’re behind in the UK so I don’t go looking at TSCC, or the BSG finale. Once I’ve seen it, then I’ll have a look.

    I do want to read reviews about movies without them spoiling it, yet even reading that gives something away. So you’re kind of stuck – you can’t review without any spoilage whatsoever.

    I would say one thing – just because it is up elsewhere on the net doesn’t mean Screenrant should do it. After all, as said in the Friendly Response, Screenrant has its own way of doing things.

    If Screenrant has the policy of non-spoilers for a time, then speaking freely, us visitors know where we stand.
    We should also do the same ourselves.

  26. Oh, one more thing:

    Because Screenrant is in the business of discussing tv and movies, the simple truth is it has to talk openly and in detail about things after a point.

    We can’t keep avoiding saying that HE did THAT to THAT PERSON in THAT MOVIE.

    If someone hasn’t seen the ending of a show or movie and comes here to check out talk about it months afterward, they deserve having it spoiled.

  27. It’s completely the reader’s responsibility. As soon as the movie is officially released, or the show officially airs, ANYWHERE in the world, then we should be able to talk about what happens.

    The new Dragonball movie, for instance, has been released in Japan, but won’t be out in the US until April. I don’t particularly want to see the movie, but I have avoided reading any stories on it sine it came out in Japan because, as far as I’m concerned, those articles shouldn’t be required to have spoiler warnings.

    If it’s been released, it’s perfectly fine to talk about. That said, spoilers should only be talked about in relevant articles. What I mean by that is, if you want to talk about the ending to Wanted, for instance, do so only in stories directly concerning that movie or its possible sequels.

    I was just reading an article on IGN about how Angelina Jolie is interested in joining the Bond franchise, and they blurted out the ending to Wanted right there in that article. That definitely should NOT be allowed, as they completely spoiled that movie for me in an article that otherwise SHOULD have been safe for me to read.

  28. JOSH:

    That’s the exact like-event that inspired this article, because that’s what happened to me.

    Wanted has been out for so long, I suspect they didn’t think it warranted a warning… or for that matter, like I did, it didn’t even cross their mind to say LOOK OUT because it has been out for so long.

    The DVD came out in December… I would never have thought that I need to be cautious on any issue regarding Wanted.

    Hence, part of my question: Exactly how long do you think people should be warning readers that they have info / a spoiler in their text?

    It’s definitely a fine line out there.

  29. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m careful about spoilers – but there is no way that on this site we’ll wait until AFTER a DVD release to discuss plot details of a film.